I’ve learned a lot over the last few months of trying to live a more “slow” life when it comes to fashion. To me, this means getting rid of clothes that no longer serve me, whether by selling, donating, or recycling; coming up with a uniform or at least a cohesive closet of clothes that I love to wear and look good on me; buying new clothes almost exclusively from ethical and sustainable brands; buying clothes secondhand; and in general, shopping more mindfully. My goal was to bring joy back into my closet, to feel good about myself in my clothes, and also to stop contributing to the fast fashion industry. By no means do I have it all figured out — I did recently impulse-buy a pair of sneakers on a trip to Target — but I'm trying, and I am mostly feeling much better about my wardrobe than I did six months ago! Here are my tips, which I talk about on Episode 8 of the podcast, Clothes Call.
I like to say there are two methods: the rip-the-Band-Aid off method and the slow method. The Band-Aid method is you take literally everything out of your closet, try it on, and make a decision on the spot. You have to be ruthless. I like to say that clothes are a sunk cost: you’ve already spent the money, and if you’re not wearing them, they’re of no value to you! If you’re not wearing it, get rid of it. The slow method is deciding on a period of time (6 months or a year, usually) where you see what you actually wear in your closet (usually by turning around the hangers) and then getting rid of everything you don’t wear. If you live in a climate like Los Angeles, where the temperature doesn’t change very much, you can do this in a shorter amount of time, but if you live somewhere with seasons you will want to do this over a longer period of time.
It can often help to have a friend there when you do this, or you can hire a professional organizer to help.
I like to separate the clothes I’m getting rid of into three piles: clothes I’m going to sell, clothes I’m going to donate or give away, and clothes I’m going to throw away or recycle. I sell clothes that are in good condition (no stains, rips, or other damage) and are still in style. I donate clothes that are still in good condition, but maybe have more wear, although I don’t love donating clothes to stores like Goodwill because they often end up in landfills. I am trying to figure out ways to recycle clothes more instead of just throwing them out, which is the worst thing to do! Some people have told me they make dog beds out of used clothes. Maybe I’ll try that!
I sell clothes individually on my Slow Clothes Movement Instagram and on the @noihsaf.bazaar Instagram account, as well as on Poshmark and eBay. ThredUp is an app that will send you a bag that you can send clothes back in — they don’t take a ton of stuff and they don’t offer a ton of money, but it’s an easy way to get rid of a bunch of stuff at once. If you have expensive designer clothes, bags, shoes, etc., you can consign them on a site like the RealReal if you don’t want to worry about shipping, insurance, etc.
I don’t love clothing swaps because I feel like I always end up with clothes I don’t actually wear, but if you have a lot of clothes that you don’t feel like selling but want to give away you could always invite some friends over to take what they want.
I think it’s useful, even before you start purging, to think about the clothes you do own that you love. What do they have in common? Are there styles, fabrics, cuts, etc. that you think are particularly flattering on you? What is missing in your wardrobe? What clothes do you really need for your lifestyle (if you work from home, you don’t need a wardrobe of business casual clothes; if you never go out, you don’t need a closet full of “going out shirts,” etc.)? Then you can come up with a “uniform,” or if that feels too restrictive, call it closet guidelines.
So now, you can be more mindful about what you buy. I suggest starting a Pinterest board or Instagram collection for stuff that you see that you want, and sitting on each item for at least a couple of weeks.
Don’t be afraid to pay full price for things — we are so conditioned to only buy things on sale that we end up with stuff we don’t want, which is wasteful. Instead, if you can afford it, save up to buy one or two items that you really love.
Try to buy only ethical/sustainable brands and/or secondhand clothes. (See the bottom of the post for some brands that I love.) The selling apps/accounts mentioned above are good for buying as well as selling — my winter coat is from the RealReal, for example!
The really important thing here is to only buy stuff that fits you perfectly and that you love -- and return clothes you don’t love. If you buy something and you don’t wear it within the first month, and you’re outside of the return window, sell it. You’re never going to wear it.
If you shop more mindfully, the goal is to not have to really purge your closet ever again!
Clothes Care Tips
Avoid buying dry clean only clothes. When you can wash your clothes at home, it’s cheaper, better for the environment, and you’re more likely to wear them more. I would keep a bag of clothes to take to the dry cleaner that would sit in my house for 6 or 8 weeks, which meant that I wasn’t wearing those clothes for that period of time, and then every time I wore them I’d have to dry clean them because I would inevitably spill something on them. The cost per wear was astronomical!
If you do have dry clean only clothes, you can wash lots of them at home in a mesh bag with a delicate laundry detergent like the Laundress, or hand wash. The Laundress also has good guides for how to wash all kinds of clothes, get out stains, etc.
Invest in a steamer. I like them better than irons.
Wash your clothes less! Unless I get my clothes actually dirty or stained, or they really smell, I don’t wash them. I almost never wash my jeans and I’ll wear shirts 5 or more times before washing them.
I don’t do this yet but I want to start air drying my clothes — it helps them last longer, uses less electricity, is better for the environment, etc.
Hand wash your bras, or if that’s not practical, get a lingerie bag. But whatever you do, don’t put them in the dryer.
Sustainable/Ethical Brands That I like
This is by no means an exhaustive list (for a more comprehensive list, see, for example, here), but it can get you started! Unfortunately a lot of ethical and sustainable clothing is still quite expensive, but hopefully you’ll be able to find some of these brands secondhand, or perhaps save up for one or two items a season. Bonus — all of these brands are woman-founded and/or owned!